We have all had those students that have, for whatever reason, cause immense amounts of stress, emotional heartache, the sweats, and quite possibly hives. These students often act out in class, are insubordinate, don't contribute to conversations in a positive manner, or attract negative attention. THOSE students. I remember having a class of 6th graders that caused me so much anxiety that I would almost get sick to my stomach 5 minutes before the bell would ring. THOSE students, that you silently think, "thank god, they are not here today...." THOSE students.
Look, I am not a perfect human being. I am not a perfect teacher by any means and I have made my fair share of mistakes, but I have done a lot of thinking about these students and their role in my growth as a teacher. It would be naive to think that these students don't have a lot of baggage when coming to school. Baggage that we think they should leave at the door so they can focus on learning. However, for these students, that is heavy baggage that they just can't drop off-some of these students are dealing with some serious issues that go well beyond my understanding and my experiences. These are the students that need the most love from us. These are the students that need a caring relationship with an adult. Please allow me to clarify here-we are not here to "SAVE THE CHILDREN." No, this is not our role as teachers and puts us in a position of power that can not be exchanged. Rather, our role is to meet the child where they are at, and not give up. We cannot give up on these young people.
I have a new set of students this semester and of course, every class has a unique dynamic. One young lady comes to my class late every.single.day. She is defiant, she puts on a attitude that she doesn't care, she rolls her eyes at me, and just tosses my words aside. She struggles with most of her teachers. The young lady is a freshman and I don't know enough about her to understand what has caused this child to have such a negative life view. I have been struggling with how to connect with her and I and shared this with her yesterday. She responded with "Why do you want to connect with me? I don't care about you." That stung and caused me to have a nightmare last night. Today, I sat right by her and worked with her on the song "De Colores". I sat with her for 15 minutes (with 20 other students in room-who were all just happy as clams strumming and playing their melodies). I sat with her and told her that what she was doing was good work. When we were done, I looked at her and firmly shared with her "I will not give up on you." I looked at her again and said, "I will not give up on you."
I think, in my mind, I was saying that to her, but I was also saying that to myself. So often, we work with these students. They are frustrating and we wonder what went wrong with the student. But if we dig deeper, can we ourselves work harder to build a connection, even if a fraction of a connection. If these students see us believing in them, they might start to believe in themselves as well.
The hardest students to reach can be some of our best teachers. They will test us to limits of emotional and mental stress, but I firmly believe that we can learn and grow so much as educators. While I would not wish for a class of students like the one I described, I do know that I have re-committed myself to showing and demonstrating compassion for all of my students, and not giving up on them, or myself.
Rehearsals at 7:15 in the morning are rough....for anybody. However, I am grateful that I get to start my day playing jazz with a bunch of high school kids who enjoy playing enough to get to school an hour early (every day) to have some musical fun. We are getting ready for our next performance, which is Swing Night-a super fun experience that we share with Jazz I and the community jazz band. We are playing some standard charts, 'Woodchopper's Ball", "Darn that Dream", "It Don't Mean a Thing..."....you get the idea. Today I noticed that the students were playing pretty tentatively, even thought the rhythms and notes are familiar to them (I remind them that they have seen these notes and rhythms before, they are just in different configurations). The trumpets in particular are incredibly tentative in their playing and I have tried every trick in the book to encourage them to play with more volume, air, confidence....etc.
So, fast forward, I haul out my cornet and just sit in with kids. I haven't played cornet in forever---especially jazz. I mean...I don't play cornet/trumpet. I *taught* it for many years as a middle school band director and would regularly play along with my kids in lessons, band, and jazz band. But I don't actually play it. And I really only know how to play: loud (the only way, amiright fellow trumpet players??) Anyway, I got back there and started playing-missing notes, hitting the wrong partial-not on purpose, but mainly because I was just going for it (and not warmed up at all and likely playing on a mouthpiece that was way too small.) It was SO.MUCH.FUN!! And, the kids started to play a bit louder. After we got done, I exclaimed "WHO CARES IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE?!! I mean, who really cares?? We are playing a chart at quarter note equals 160. How long does that note actually last? Nobody is going to stop you at the gates of wherever in your afterlife and say to you....'oh, no....you can't enter, because remember that one time in jazz band you played a wrong note...'' I went on to share with them that we should not fear making a mistake in place of playing with passion and energy. Mistakes WILL happen, and IT'S OK. They WILL happen in a performance, and IT IS OK. I countered this exclamation with the caveat that to purposely make mistakes is completely different than going for it and making a mistake. But that by focusing so much on playing the right notes, we are missing so much more of the experience.
Yes. Notes are important. They were intentionally put there by the composer and we as musicians have a responsibility to honor those notes and the meaning behind those notes. However, what kinds of disservice are we doing to the students with whom we work if that is the only thing we focus on? In what ways can we encourage students to make mistakes and reflect upon the experience and then in turn change how they approach the piece the second time around.
After my exclamation we started the tune over again, and by golly, it was a different band! The trumpets were playing with a newfound confidence, which encouraged the rest of the band to go for it. A few mistakes were heard, but it wasn't because the kids were purposely playing wrong notes, they were going for the notes. And I could not have been more proud.
Between classes I was going from my office to my classroom and one of the jazz band members (newer the past few weeks) stopped me and shared with me how much he enjoyed "today's lesson on making mistakes". He shared with me that he instantly became more confident because he was ok making mistakes and that only by trying and going for it, would he actually be able to learn anything. #daymade. So, while this post might ruffle a few feathers (and I welcome the conversation) I hope this offers a perspective of learning to gain understanding, versus learning out of fear-which actually does not really increase learning.
I hope to approach more things in life like this: embracing the wrong notes and all the mistakes because by doing so, we can only reflect and learn, try it again and hopefully do better.
Is it program numbers? Awards? Festival ratings? Awards you receive from various advocacy groups touting your program's numbers, awards, festival ratings? It seems that this is what we (the music education profession) deems to be "successful" in K-12 music education. I recently read an article that suggested what successful guitar programs teach their students. That sentence in itself seems problematic to me. Are the programs teaching? In all of this, where are the students? What role do the students play in all of this?
I have found that highly successful guitar classes and programs will cover similar fundamental performance techniques and employ a lot of notated music reading (solo & ensemble) to push and challenge students.
This begs the question, what does "successful" even mean? A quick search for the definition reveals the following definitions:
1)the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals;
2) the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like;
3) a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors;
4) a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.
It seems to me that in general that our profession tends to promote success as defined by a mash-up of these definitions. As educators, we have goals for our students and hopefully, we share these goals and involve the students in the goal-making. Ideally, the goals should come from the students first and we help them get there. But if this is what it means to see success, for the students to succeed, why are we not reading about their accomplishments? Why am I reading more about the teachers' accomplishments? This is not to dismiss the hard work that teachers do, we work our asses off, no doubt about that. But why? Do we work our butts off to receive awards, or do we work our butts off to watch the students struggle with a musical problem, only to work through the problem themselves and possibly others, and come out with a better understanding on the other side?
So, back to the quote that I posted. The program that was highlighted in this article is VERY different than the 'program' at South High. The program highlighted comes from a performance driven program, which is 100% ok and has lots of benefits for students. However, as someone who facilitates guitar experiences in my class, I wonder what the consequences are with a statement that suggests that if one does not employ these techniques for teaching guitar, is that program "less successful"? I doubt that is what the author intended, but it caused me some panic as to how I facilitate guitar experiences at South. We don't do anything that the article suggests, but I feel that the experiences that the students have with guitar are just as important and can encourage music making beyond the classroom. But we don't focus on traditional notation. While we do spend about a week with basic theory, the majority of what we do in class is what I would like to consider "functional guitar". I consider the class to be a successful experience if, by the end of the semester, the students have a better understanding of guitar through multiple experiences that include creative projects such as song writing and cover projects. Through those experiences they will learn the beauty of music making with others, but also develop some sort of vocabulary that will allow them to communicate musically through playing guitar.
If I may be so bold as to share a very cool experience that the Guitar 2 students had last week. We went to a recording studio at McNally Smith College of Music and the students spent all day recording covers and originals that will eventually be uploaded to Bandcamp where they will be available for a sliding scale donation. All proceeds will be going to a relief fund for victims of recent natural disasters. The students did ALL the work. I just sat back for 8 hours and watched them collaborate, work together, problem solve, and make music. It was incredible. Not once did they ask me for help. Today we got the tracks from the studio and the students started mixing their tracks in Garageband. The only thing I really needed to do was show them how to open a zip file. From there they just started experimenting with the program to learn how it works. I had thought about creating a tutorial, but there are enough students in the class that have worked with Garageband that I was confident they could work with each other. And they did. Again. Without me. Is that success? I don't know. I *think* it is. The album itself is not the success. It is what the students have experienced in the past month to put that album together that makes it a "success".
This is an excerpt from my written comprehensive exams that I completed in the Spring of 2016.
Creativity in music education has been a hotly contested issue. Those who teach performance based classes such as band, choir, and orchestra often argue that within those ensembles, students are creating. They are creating music with their peers in a collaborative manner that produces a final product. Some educators and researchers may disagree and suggest that students and teachers in these ensembles are not creating, but rather, re-creating music. Musical decisions have been already been created by the original composer and it is the ensemble’s duty, often at the discretion of the ensemble director, to ‘realize’ those musical directions that are on the page. So, based on this generalized description, it is hard to argue that large ensembles are truly embodying the process of “creating”.
It might be wise to consider the words “creating” and “creativity” and if there is a difference between the two. “Creating” may be best defined as the act of doing, whereas “creativity” may be best understood as the thought process that initiates “creating.” So there may be “creativity” in place but perhaps the act of “creating” has not occurred. Within this debate comes in “composing”, another word that creates angst among music educators for a myriad of reasons. (Dr. Sandra Stauffer has greatly influenced my thinking on this term and rather than use "compose" in my own classrooms, I use "create" and will refer to this term versus composition.) With a push from the National Standards for educators to embrace "composing" in their ensemble classes to further students creative and creating potential, it is no wonder our profession is having the sometimes heated conversations that we are having. To some educators, playing in ensemble, as described above, is a perfectly acceptable form of creating. However, we must look deeper to the student’s individual needs to perhaps have a better understanding as to why encouraging students to compose, actively engaging the creativity process to participate in the act of creating, might be incredibly beneficial to the student as a musical being.
Research related to creating in the classroom is mostly regulated to experiences of elementary students. Something happens when students enter a large group experience and no longer have the opportunity to create. The little research on creating in secondary ensembles attempts to understand how students create in quantifiable terms (Menard, 2015). While this is useful, especially measuring comfort levels of students attitudes towards composing via a pre-test and post-test and their ability levels, I believe this potentially undermines the greater affect of the process.
Research suggests that secondary educators are resistant to creating for a variety of reason that include: time, attitude towards composing, fear of quality and lack of preparation to teach composition (Hickey 2010, Menard, 2015). Many educators fear that devoting time to creating in the performance-based classroom will take time away from performances. With this time element is an attitude that creating does not belong in the large group ensemble experience. In a past conversation with a previous colleague, I recall sharing a great experience that I had with my bands as we negotiated a creating project within the confines of the space that was afforded to us, and the colleague responded with “band should be band, if kids want to compose, they should take music theory or a composition class..” While anecdotal in nature, this opinion is not entirely uncommon and raises a whole host of issues regarding the ways in which we teach creating and who has access to those experiences. Because performance-based classes are grounded in the "traditional' expectation of high quality performances, there is a fear among educators that a lack of quality in the student compositions may be reflective in the teacher’s inability or lack of training in composition. This raises another issue in regards to teacher preparation and how colleges and universities are including creating in their studies (Stringham, 2016).
While these issues and challenges are very real and cause for concern, perhaps we can take a look at what our elementary counterparts are doing to include creating in their classrooms as a way to reinforce musical concepts. Hickey (2010) suggests that every new concept that is being taught can be reinforced through creating. This is where the word “composing” starts to raise fear in music educators. There is a mis-guided belief that in order to teach "composition" we must start with theory and our students should be creating four part chorales. In reality, creating a short rhythmic motif is a form of creation. Stringham (2016) suggests that for more advanced students, using the current repertoire in their folders as a basis for creating will foster additional understanding of musical ideas but also encourage student’s to create their own understanding of music.
The concern of time is a huge issue for music educators, especially in high school ensembles where it seems, especially in the band world, there are performances that occur monthly, if not weekly, depending on how the basketball team is doing. However, how might music educators incorporate students’ compositions into a performance? Taking the lead of colleagues at a local high school in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, I would encourage music educators to think about how they might create a unit on composition that reinforces a particular theme for the concert. For example, this particular music team (Nora Tycast and Brian Lukkasson) chooses a theme each spring; one year it was poetry, another year it was film music. Using this theme, students picked a silent film, or a piece of poetry and wrote music to accompany the film or represent the poetry. These were collaborative groups that students worked together in for two months. All of the creations were a part of the concert. The unit was embedded within the rehearsal structure so that ample time was given on music prep but also creating. When asked how this unit affected the overall performance of the ensemble, the directors both agreed that it only enhanced the experience because students became more aware of compositional decisions made by composers of the music they were playing, but it also encouraged the students to take musical risks. The directors prepared one or two fewer ensemble pieces so that the students would not feel overwhelmed by the whole process.
Allowing for these experiences encourages students to become more independent musicians. Through creating their own music, students think critically about musicial decisions and have specific reasons for the decisions they made rather than “that’s what’s on the paper”. Additionally for students who are in the large ensemble, but are more ‘section’ players versus ‘lead’ players, this allows opportunities for these students to perhaps develop a more personal musical identity. Finally, through creating music, rather than re-creating, students have the opportunity for a different musicking experience that may potentially carry with them when their large ensemble experience ends.
So, what am I doing?
We at the midpoint for the quarter and beginning band is well on our way into making musical decisions. Like I mentioned with the Hickey (2012), I use creating as a way to reinforce any sort of new concept. This entry from last year describes a bit more about what we do at the beginning of year. We are now into reading "traditional" notation. The students are doing really well and I think we are enjoying ourselves. Every couple of weeks we have "playchecks" that help inform the student and myself of how they have progressed and what they need to work on in the upcoming week. These are nice little check-ins that allow a little one on one time with the students, something that is often lost in a "large" group setting.
This upcoming week students are creating their own playchecks. Doing this allows for several observations: what is the student's understanding of what we are actually "learning". Do they really understand rhythm, or are they just using their ears? By creating their own melodies, they are demonstrating their understanding of rhythm and structure. By writing their own notes, they are demonstrating that they have an awareness of what notes their instrument can play. Then, they play their creation for me. Sometimes, not always, what they have written doesn't always translate to their instrument and that is OK! We talk, as a class, how sometimes the visual and the physical don't quite line up-that it might take our muscles (facial) to catch up to our visual. Again, it is OK! I try to not stress to much about their abilities to read music right away. I want them to have fun (what a concept, right) and encouraging them to write something that they can show off for me, encourages that. After all, isn't the whole point of participating in a communal activity such as music to have fun?
Perhaps it is my own selfish desires to relive my teenage years (really? who REALLY wants to go through that mess??). But yesterday, something incredible happened in the "Music in America: Hip Hop, Rock, and Beyond" (M.I.A) class that I facilitate. But to put things in context, allow me to back up a bit...
Last year I envisioned a class that focused less on learning how to play an instrument and performing/creating and more about the discussion of music and how society and music are extremely intertwined. Not every student has a interest in learning instruments, OR, they are music junkies and love just talking about music. I wanted to facilitate a class that would appeal to these students. I considered the student population that I work with and how I might be able to address these varied interests, so I created this class. (The title is not mine....that was the "teaching and learning" department). Anyhoo...this semester has been very interesting for a variety of reasons. About half the class signed up to be in the class and has been incredibly engaged with discussions, projects, readings....etc. The other half of the class was "put" in the the class to "fill spots" and because "they needed a place to go". In other words, we don't have enough electives during this particular hour for students. SO, that has been challenging at times. At the beginning of the semester I had to advocate for several students because they were absolutely Level 1 ELL students, meaning they had no English skills. This class was completely inappropriate for them, BUT I got them into guitar and we are happily strumming along together. Some students still struggle with the readings as they are still learning the language, and they aren't able to "read between the lines" in terms of the lyrical content, but that is ok. They are working on their language skills and that is important too. I have learned how to adapt reading guides and create EL tests that require more basic skills versus critical thinking skills.
So, at times it has been frustrating and I have, on several occasions, found myself lamenting about the seeming "divide" between engaged and non-engaged students to my colleagues. My office-mate and choir colleague offered some words that have resonated with me and have helped me negotiate this feeling of failure. She suggested that so often we are concerned with incorporating students' cultures into our classroom that we miss that we are also teaching about our own culture as well, AND THAT THIS IS OK!!! This is especially ok with music. Students who are new to our country are trying to figure out what it means to be a teen in this world and there are new phrases and new sounds and what better way to experience that through music? Now...that is not to say that I have not utilized their expertise on Somali music or Ecuadorian music. I am not familiar with their music, so they have certainly educated us in the ways in which music is used in their cultures and what it means to them as young men and women. But to what my colleague was saying, even if the students were not "actively participating" in the experience doesn't mean they weren't gaining something from it The learning might just look different.
So, on to yesterday. We have been working our way through this "Seattle Sound" unit and of course we studied Nirvana. Guitar is an important part of this music and in American culture, so why not learn how to play a tune? I broke the class up into three groups. I worked with students who had never played guitar (and for some, never had touched an instrument before) and taught them a simple bass line. There are some students who were comfortable and well-versed in power chords/barre chords and they worked with the other students. It was amazing. Karen Howard, from the University of St. Thomas was in my classroom observing and caught it all on video. I told her before hand "I have no idea how this is going to go. It could be awesome or it could completely flop." It was beyond my wildest imagination. Seriously. Watch the whole thing. This was 100% unplanned. To quote a student: "We aren't supposed to do this in school, but we just did."
It's been a while. I started this post on March 2nd. Something must have happened that day or week to cause me to pause and consider my role as an educator. What is the role of music education in students' lives? What is the role of music education in MY life? Recently it has been so much bigger than the content that we are often so concerned with "passing on" to the students with whom we work. These students have taught me A LOT this year. I have grown more in the past two years as an educator as a result of the experiences that the students have brought into the classroom. It has been a humbling, and truly rewarding experience.
There is a student who is a selective mute who was in guitar last year and last spring, but needs to fulfill credits in other classes. He regularly checks in with me to show me some of he music that he is writing and it is inspiring. This is all music he has created, without any help from me. I suppose the one thing that I did do was create a space for him to feel comfortable, without the need to talk. It causes me to pause what it means to choose to not speak, for whatever reason, and find communication only through written word, music, and visual arts.
A student came to me at the beginning of second semester to thank me for teaching her guitar. She came to class very reserved, careful to speak in front of her peers. However, she performed solo guitar and singing at the school talent show. She share with me had it not been for my class, the encouragement, I provided, as well as a space to create and be ok with mistakes, that she never would have tried out for the talent show. That was amazing to me.
What is the role of music in our lives? How are we encouraging students to bring their music in the classrooms and share with us their culture? How are we embracing this to the fullest, by putting away our preconceived notions of what music education *should* be versus what it *could* be.
In my hip hop/rock/whatever class we are working through a unit on Grunge music. OF COURSE we are going to be learning about Nirvana. Guitar is a super important part of music, so why not try it out for a few days?? I suck at bar chords, but I have students who are great at it, so why not pass over the role of 'teacher" or facilitator to the students? That's the plan and they are looking forward to sharing their understanding of guitar with students who may have never played an instrument before. I think it will be fun. Twenty-five acoustic guitars rocking out to "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? Why not?!
And why not? Really, What is the worse thing that could happen? We sound crappy? Well, that is ok. We learn from the experience? Even better? Perhaps some kiddos think, "hey, this is neat, I want to learn more guitar". #whatifmusiced
Creating access points for music education is something that South HS is pretty good at. We have a beginner band and a beginner string orchestra that meet everyday for 55 minutes. That's amazing in the high school world! It makes sense....there are beginning language courses, arts courses, remedial math and language courses, and there is usually an entry point for choir, so why not our instrumental classes. Our beginning class meet the same time as the "youngest" concert band (Concert Band) so that when students are ready, they can just move to Concert Band. There is a great group of students in beginning band....25 to be precise. Twenty-five beginning band students in high school! The challenge is to keep them engage while dealing with the intricacies of individual instrumental needs.
I think I may have figured out how to do this....finally. Now, some folks may argue up and down about this, but until someone has figured out a better way to teach transposition to beginners, while reading standardized notation, rhythms, which end is up on an instrument...and all that goes along with something new, I think I will keep doing this. Not to mention, this is much easier for those students who are also learning how to speak English. This is part of the scaffolding process that will lead into reading standard notation, which will occur next week.
Last week the students started playing their instruments. Rather than teaching them notes and rhythms first (ie, theory) we started playing first. I taught the first three notes of each instruments B-flat major scale to each group, but I didn't assign note names, just 1, 2, 3. We played around with different melodies, the students even created their own melodies (no rhythms yet). Then we added in rhythms. The numbers underneath the rhythms represent the notes. Each student, regardless of their instrument, received this same paper because I taught them the transposed notes, but as numbers. For the most part, these melodies were recognizable to the students, so they were able to attach the rhythm with what they were playing. The best part about this is that the students were playing together and experiencing success as individuals and as a group-SO important in beginning band. I also have a "rhythm" deck, so students combined different rhythms and we played through them together. Lots of opportunity for students to create, thus reinforcing what we were learning in class.
Next week students will be delving into standard notation. I intend to discuss both clefs with the students, so that they understand how they both work. Then I will hand out sheets of music that have the first six notes of the B-flat scale (number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 to the students) and we will then connect the number with the actual note. I think it will work. I HOPE it will work!
For some reason, I feel really good about my lesson planning this year. Well, I should start off by commenting that this past week was the BEST first week of school I have ever had. Things got frantic at times, but overall, it was awesome! Great classes: students are enthusiastic and incredibly kind which makes the job so much easier. But I also wonder if part of it had to do with my planning.
For many years I planned rehearsals and working towards achieving a certain sound with the groups. I do not want to dismiss that part of my life nor diminish that at all. There is tremendous work being done by music educators who work with performing groups, but I think I finally (FINALLY, after 13 years) figured out how to plan for learning. So, I am a pretty slow learner. I always have been, but my job has really transformed how I approach learning and teaching. My classes focus on learning and the sound eventually comes along with that. It makes so much sense to me and I wish I would have seen the writing on the wall so many years ago. Of course, my students learned when I was in the band classroom, but this feels different to me. I often wonder if is because there is a lack of pressure to perform at a certain level. Allowing the students to experiment with sound and creating their own music has fostered some pretty incredible learning, even within the first week of school. Last week in the guitar classes, we learned a simple melody, the chords that went along with the melody, how to de-code tab and create our own songs, all within the first four days of having a guitar in our hands. The students weren't upset that they weren't learning how to shred their favorite solo, but they were amazed at how much they learned. I was amazed at how much we learned, and we get to do it again this week!
It is likely that anyone reading this is thinking, "Seriously, Sarah, this is nothing new. You have been teaching for 14 years and you are now just figuring out how to plan for learning??" Well, this is my blog and I am still learning the ropes as well :) Considering that, I wonder how discovery and planning to learn might look like in different classrooms. Care to share?
I just completed my oral exams for my written comprehensives this past Friday down at ASU. I have found that this part of the journey is different for each school. I am thankful that my professors allowed me to write my own questions, so there weren't any surprises. Each test (there are three of them) is timed-four hours of writing. They were extremely intense, but I learned SO much from the overall experience. I have learned that I found some new pedagogy interests as well as research interests. Additionally, I have learned via Friday's exam, that I need to start thinking more deeply about what I am reading and interrogate my own beliefs, what has been written and what could be written. There were times when I thought I understood certain concepts and ideas, and I think I do understand concepts (read: hegemonic norm) but it's now time to start digging further.
In preparing for these tests I kept going back to several books. I have found that sometimes we don't read books cover to cover!!! Gasp! In fact, there is no way that I could have survived if I would have read these cover to cover, but I definitely read a good chunk of them and have found them invaluable resources in my research and in my thoughts about teaching. You are not reading a literature review here, not even a summary of these books, but just my two-cents.
The Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education is in my mind, probably one of the most important books to have been published recently in music education. It brings together some of the top thinkers in music education, as well as non-music educator thinkers and confronts social justice issues head on. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is teaching K-12 or higher education.
Randal Allsup's 2016 book Remixing the Classroom: Toward and Open Philosophy of Music Education is a beautiful book. I first became acutely aware of how much I appreciated Allsup's philosophy on learning and teaching in his 2015 MEJ article "Our Both/And Movement" (another recommended read). This book continues that conversation, but also suggests that we are not preparing teachers to teach in an evolving classroom. I'm not done with this book quite yet, but am looking forward to continuing the journey.
Drs. Vicki Lind and Constance McKoy published this book early 2016 and it is a gold mine of information. It presents the historical elements of culturally responsive teaching and provides rich pedagogical implications as well as realistic applications of culturally responsive teaching in music classrooms. I am excited to continue reading this as well as the school year kicks off.
After a long hiatus, I am ready to start blogging again about my teaching experiences. For a while, I had a nice blog that documented my experiences teaching middle school music. When I went back to school full time, that went by the wayside, even though I had every intention of documenting my experiences at ASU as well, but that gave way to hours of reading and writing for classes, so writing for fun wasn't really on the top of my list of things to do. Either way, I am back and excited for this new blog and for another year of teaching.
I am so grateful for this upcoming year. I really do love my job at South. It will be my second year here, but I feel like I have been there for ten. Nothing beats an incredibly supportive admin, fantastic colleagues, and the most amazing students. Sure, there are frustrating days-any job can be frustrating, especially when we work with humans. Let's be honest, we are not perfect :) However, I feel like this is my home. I finally feel like I can be who I am as a human. I feel trusted that I am making the right decisions and if I have questions I have countless people I can talk to. It's great!
This blog is going to be a bit of a hybrid in terms of what I talk about. My philosophy on learning and teaching has certainly evolved since I started teaching in 2003, but it has changed immensely since I began my graduate studies at ASU two years ago. Truly, I could not have imagined, even 5 years ago, that I would be at my current job and loving it so much. I have to credit ASU with being so life changing. So, sometimes this blog will delve into that, but today I am writing about organization!!
For years and years, my standard lesson planning tool was a notebook. Each class got a notebook designated for them. Here i would write down my lesson plans (in bulleted form), reminders, to-dos...etc. It worked for me. I also used a calendar for important dates as well. This year, I am attempting to be a bit more tech savvy and will be using Chalk.com, a FREE online planning tool for teachers. One of the reasons that I am trying this out is because I am going to be creating larger project-based units and this will be an easier way for me to embed smaller lessons into the units, and have it all at my fingertips (seriously, what did we do before the cloud?!). Additionally, if I felt it necessary, I can share the lessons with students-which would be incredibly helpful if students are out multiple days. I have been playing around with it and seems pretty user friendly. What planning tools do you use? Please share!
I will do my best to blog once a week. I think that is a good goal for myself. Thanks for stopping by and reading and please feel free to comment below!